Regardless of its size or the kind of business you are running, any business can be affected by a crisis. However, successful businesses emerge better than they were before the crisis.
Periods of crisis are difficult, tiring, and stressful for small businesses. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. But unlike their larger counterparts, they may not have the resources for risk teams and contingency planning to be in-built to their daily operations. This can make them more prone to suffering when one strikes.
Although every business is unique and different, there are general solutions that can keep small businesses going during a crisis. This article will discuss some of these solutions to assist small business better handle crisis.
- How Should a Company Respond to a Crisis?
- What are the 5 Rules for Crisis Management?
- How can Companies be Prepared for a Crisis?
- What is the Best Way to Manage a Crisis?
- What is the First Step a Company Should do When Responding to a Crisis?
- What are the 4 Steps for Responding to a Crisis?
- What are the Golden Rules in Crisis Management?
- What is the First Rule in a Crisis Situation?
- What does a Crisis Management Plan Look Like?
- What is the Last Step a Company Should Take When Responding to a Crisis?
- Implement Learnings to Hone Response and Prevent Future Crisis
- What Makes a Good Leader During a Crisis?
How Should a Company Respond to a Crisis?
The management protocol could involve what to do during the crisis and the recovery measures after the incident occurred. Here are some crisis management tips every small business owner should know about:
1. Acknowledge the crisis.
The first move to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Many small business owners make the mistake of believing that the problem will disappear if it is ignored. Contrary to this opinion, the problem might worsen if the matter is not properly handled.
It is best if you always kept in mind that you have the capacity to drive your business out of the crisis and into a safe area.
The truth is, denying that the problem is nonexistent will only make matters worse.
2. Keep a positive mindset.
Once your business has been hit hard by any crisis, the best thing to do would be to stay optimistic throughout the ordeal. Always carry out the business activities in an ethical manner, even in the face of a crisis, so that clients do not lose faith in you.
Successful business owners always drive inspiration to their employees and the organization at large. Imagine a scenario where an incident occurs, and you are left demoralized. The employees who look up to you will feel even more devastated.
Therefore, should life give you lemons, make lemonade!
3. Identify the issues clearly and take necessary action.
Taking corrective action would mean identifying the issues at hand clearly. If you fail to do this, the issues may keep coming up consistently. Additionally, if the business has been hit hard by crises, it would be prudent to cut on the expenditure.
Cutting on the expenditure would mean that you save more money to channel towards the business’s recovery.
In any case, it is best if you kept in mind that a crisis can happen to you at any time. Therefore, it’s best to be ready at all times.
4. Outsource help
Seeking help from professionals could save your business, and it could remain afloat. If any form of crisis has hit your establishment, then your staff do not have the capacity to contain it; it is best to seek help from outside.
Many small business owners make the mistake of waiting out the problem, but even if it fades away, there is still the chance it will reoccur. Therefore, calling on the experts will save your business now and in the future because of the operational readiness program they can offer.
5. Be ready to learn
Every unfortunate incident is a lesson learned. Therefore, with every incident, you will get the chance to develop new solutions to modern problems, and with that, you will amplify your skills to new levels.
Additionally, every small business owner should learn how to deal with huge expenses and unproductive employees.
When you learn how to find solutions to these kinds of problems, even bigger ones will be a walk in the park.
Lastly, learn how to control your emotions. Do not be the type of employer who flares up after the occurrence of a predicament. Always keep a cool head.
6. Estimate the effects of the crisis on the business
Here, you will have to do an in-depth analysis of the damage extent. After knowing what impact the crisis has on your business, you must then take the right measures to prevent any further damage.
Additionally, as the organization leader, you should provide guidance and inspiration to everyone on your team. You may put in place guidelines that will notify everyone of their roles during and after a crisis. It Is important to prevent panic.
What are the 5 Rules for Crisis Management?
1. No successful crisis response begins on the day of the crisis.
It takes preparation to plan for crises and to proactively have the elements in place to suss out potential crises and derail them before they happen. This forward-thinking approach requires a structure and process not only for responding to a disruption and resuming operations quickly, but to stand a better chance of avoiding crises entirely.
Ad hoc responses built on the belief that the organization has good people who know how to run things are not as effective as planning and practicing for success. What sports team would consider not practicing their best strategy for winning a championship? Just because they have top players doesn’t mean those people will be adept at interacting with each other quickly when under pressure without practice.
2. Do the right thing. Follow your mission statement.
What are the things you explicitly state are core to your mission? If putting your employees or customers first is among them, then your leadership during a crisis must demonstrate that or it’s just lip service. Truly leading in a crisis means making very hard decisions and leading by example.
3. “Trust us” never works.
In a crisis, you can’t just spin the side of the story you want. You must provide information to the satisfaction of the key stakeholders you are trying to convince. Answer stakeholders’ questions with specificity—this is key.
For example, when communicating return-to-work decision making during the pandemic, successful organizations itemized circumstances that would either enable or stall reopening, such as a 14-day downward trajectory in COVID-related hospitalizations in states where the business operates.
4. Don’t assume you can manage a crisis by continuing to do things the way you have always done things.
There is huge value in understanding company culture, but, frankly, believing one knows what is the best practice when one has not experienced other contexts can create artificial blinders to potentially better ways of doing things.
5. Break your own news.
Let’s be clear: bad news doesn’t smell sweeter with time. And it’s certainly not going to go unnoticed the longer it’s left to fester. Organizations that are up front about crisis response and mistakes will regain and retain customer trust faster than organizations that hope errors will go undiscovered.
How can Companies be Prepared for a Crisis?
It’s important to take time today to prepare your business for the next crisis, so you can weather the storm and come out on the other side stronger.
Preparing for a crisis can lessen the negative impact on your business, and it provides confidence for your employees and clients. Ignoring crisis preparation puts you at risk for losing your business at worst, reduced revenue and disillusioned employees at best.
Here are four ways you can prepare your business for the next crisis that hits.
1. Secure a Line of Credit
If a crisis hits, it’s not necessarily the end. You might just need a little help to get past a rough patch before things turn around. Secure a line of credit so you have extra working capital in reserve when unexpected events hit.
2. Create a Crisis Management Handbook
Stress and uncertainty can cloud your judgement. That’s why you should develop a plan before a crisis strikes. Envision several of the most likely disruptions to your business and think what you will need to do if they occur. Put action steps into a crisis handbook to guide you in a crisis.
3. Communicate with Your Team
In advance of a crisis, let employees at all levels know that there is a crisis management handbook and a plan in place. Reinforce to all that this will be the path to follow in a crisis, and there will not be panic or as much uncertainty when a crisis occurs.
4. Communicate with Clients and Stakeholders
Immediately when a crisis occurs, be prepared to communicate with clients, suppliers and other stakeholders. Be proactive to advise and reassure them of your advance planning, the recent and upcoming steps you are taking, and maintain their confidence in you and your team.
If you haven’t prepared your business for a crisis, now is the time to take lessons learned and craft a strong plan for the future. Your business will be stronger and healthier because of your work.
What is the Best Way to Manage a Crisis?
No matter what the origin of the crisis, the consequences can be catastrophic for the company and jeopardize its future. To avoid this kind of scenario and effectively manage any type of crisis, it is essential to react quickly and take adequate measures to get your business out of the turmoil.
Even though there is no miracle solution to effectively manage a crisis, you can follow these 7 steps to set up a feasible crisis management plan.
1. Identify risks.
Good crisis management starts with anticipation of risks that a company may face. Organize a brainstorming session and gather representatives from all departments in order to create a complete list of all potential risks. These can range from a natural disaster to a computer crash, including a work accidents, cyber attacks or defective products.
Nest, analyze every risk to determine its probability of occurring and its impact on the organization; then establish a ranking. With this in-depth study, you will realize that some risks can be avoided by modifying work processes and changing the current practices. As an example, you could reduce the risk of cyber attacks by investing in efficient antivirus software and by regular cyber security related trainings provided to your employees.
2. Define an action plan
Once you have identified potential risks, you need to define human and material resources to be put in place in order to respond effectively in every crisis situation. A crisis management plan takes into consideration all possible scenarios and provides for operational responses. It may include a Business Continuity Planning (BCP), Business Recovery Plan, evacuation plan, etc.
It is important to be well prepared and to have a response plan ready before a crisis occurs. Why? As you are likely to react differently (less efficiently) under pressure when having to deal with a real crisis situation.
Note that a crisis management plan must be revised and updated regularly as risks are prone to change. It must also be tested to ensure its effectiveness.
3. Establish a crisis unit
A crisis unit is a key place for crisis management. It is a place where the crisis management organization is centralized, response plans are piloted and the crisis communication strategy is implemented.
A crisis unit generally consists of staff members from the company as well as external experts with specific experience in the event of a sensitive or critical situation:
- main decision-makers of the company (managers, service managers, senior managers),
- internal or external experts with knowledge on the nature of the crisis;
- communication and public relations specialists;
- legal advisers, lawyers or insurers.
It is within the crisis cell that decisions are made to deal with the crisis and protect the company, its business and its reputation.
4. Designate and train a spokesperson
In times of crisis, it is essential to carefully coordinate corporate communications in order to preserve company’s image and reputation, but also to show that the situation is under control.
Two main types of communication while in a crisis situation:
- communication which makes it possible to manage the crisis and reduce its impact on business operations(by alerting customers and / or the public, by sending instructions to employees, coordinating operations);
- communication aimed at avoiding scandals and protecting the reputation of the company.
The company must designate who will be its official spokesperson in the event of a crisis. They (there may be more than one) will be the only authorized party to speak on the company’s behalf. They will be seen as an official source of information about company’s position and actions.
The spokespeople are carefully selected and trained to speak through various communication channels.
5. Define messages to transmit
During a crisis, the company needs to address all of its audiences: employees, clients, partners, suppliers, public etc. Messages will therefore vary depending on the intended target, but also depending on the media chosen for the dissemination of information(website, social media, press, etc.).
However, keep in mind that the core message should be simple, clear and easily understandable by everyone. Try to be as transparent as possible and avoid denying the existence of the problem at the risk of losing all credibility.
The first messages usually are in the spirit of alert messages. Then, you have to communicate on the evolution of the situation. To avoid your messages being influenced by the stress and pressure present during the crisis situation, do not hesitate to develop them with a close watch at the disaster scenarios that you identified during the first step.
6. Make space for crisis management
When a crisis occurs, it’s time to react by implementing all actions you had prepared in advance. Have you spotted a problem or an abnormal situation? Assess the level of threat and, based on that, launch the crisis unit accordingly, make alerts and put in place the response plan.
7. Stay positive
A crisis is often a real test for the company. However, if well managed, it can create new opportunities by forcing the society to be creative and innovative as well as encouraging them to move forward by bouncing back. Internally, a crisis can be an opportunity to strengthen team cohesion and the employees’ sense of belonging. Externally, it may be seen as an occasion to show the strength, reactivity and resilience of the company.
An effectively managed crisis will improve or strengthen the image and reputation of your business.
What is the First Step a Company Should do When Responding to a Crisis?
It took less than 15 minutes for an issue at United Airlines to turn into a corporate crisis. Thanks to multiple smartphone videos that captured a confrontation between security and a passenger on board United Flight 3411, this was a global story that continues to gain attention.
The officers who wrestled with the stunned passenger and literally dragged him off the airplane seemed unaware of the many cameras that were recording their every move and how the confrontation appeared not just to the passengers but the wider public who watch the event unfold on social media. In this social media age, this is a blind spot modern businesses cannot afford to have.
Every organisation is vulnerable to crises. The days of playing ostrich—burying your head in the sand and hoping the problem goes away–are gone. Crisis management should not merely be reactionary; it should also consist of preventative measures and preparation in anticipation of potential crises. Effective crisis management has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of damage the organization receives as a result of the crisis.
The first step is to prepare. Be proactive and arrange an intensive brainstorming session to go through all the potential crises that could occur at your organization. The simple rule of thumb is to accept Murphy’s Law, “What can go wrong, will go wrong.” However, not only are some situations preventable by simply modifying processes, but this assessment process should lead to the creation of a crisis response plan.
What are the 4 Steps for Responding to a Crisis?
There are four phases of crisis management that can help keep a focus on the institution’s long-term mission and goals.
It may be tempting to ignore mitigation and preparedness when you’re in the middle of a crisis and move right to response and recovery modes. However, it’s essential to give the first two stages careful thought and analysis.
A crisis like COVID-19 is a dynamic situation with long-term implications. It’s good governance practice for the board to carve out time or dedicate a committee to consider the next phase of crises and determine what preparation measures can be implemented.
Phase 1: Mitigation
There are six items to consider during the mitigation phase:
- Create a risk management team.
- Designate a coordinator who is ready to act.
- Create, or evolve, a business continuity plan (BCP) to determine how you will serve your institution’s community during a time of crisis.
- Create a communications strategy for communicating with stakeholders and communities both on and off campus.
- Determine your best sources of information in times of crisis and establish communications channels.
- Understand budget ramifications and which areas of revenue and expense are most likely to be impacted so you can access financial resources when needed.
Phase 2: Preparedness
There are three items to consider during the preparedness phase:
- Periodically review insurance policies to make sure what is covered and make adjustments as needed.
- Put a plan in place to hold remote/virtual board meetings.
- Create a crisis communications plan.
The board can help during this phase by:
- Defining parameters for accessing financial reserves
- Reviewing your bylaws to determine whether virtual board meetings and voting are an option
- Reviewing the crisis communications plan
Phase 3: Response
There are nine items to consider during the response phase:
- Triage the most pressing issues.
- Communicate regularly with your key stakeholders.
- Analyze budget implications and create contingency plans.
- Implement the business continuity plan.
- Institute remote work.
- Reconfigure staffing needs.
- Manage the stress response from all stakeholders: staff, students, trustees, donors, funders, etc.
- Access response/recovery funds and insurance benefits and stabilize cash flow.
- Observe where the disaster reveals weaknesses in your organization and begin prioritizing how to fix them in the future.
The board can help during this phase by:
- Supporting college and university leaders and back up to them on all decision-making
- Supporting the implementation of the business continuity plan
- Empowering the administration to be creative
- Triaging and managing the amount of “help” being offered by community members
- Beginning documenting the organizational stressors
- Meeting frequently to address real-time issues and keep the full board informed
- Supporting staff’s short-term decision-making while also advancing long-term needs
- Arranging for mental health support for staff, as needed
Phase 4: Recovery
There are 10 items to consider during the recovery phase:
- Rebuild learning models to evaluate what is possible in this new environment.
- Talk to your peers – learn from others.
- Adopt a strategic plan as needed.
- Access recovery funding.
- Address any organizational weaknesses revealed during the crisis.
- Create transition plans for the new normal for all stakeholders.
- Acknowledge and manage the ongoing stress and trauma for all stakeholders.
- Emerge from triage decision-making and make better long-term decisions.
- Identify new areas for investment and divestment.
- Renegotiate stakeholder agreements, contracts, etc.
The board can help during this phase by:
- Being unified in supporting the work and staff
- Celebrating the good work that was done during the crisis response
- Identifying and capturing “lessons learned” during the crisis response
- Creating a plan for addressing the organizational stressors
- Meeting as needed to address real-time issues
- Challenging and supporting the staff to renew long-term decision-making
- Addressing board structure, relationships, and policies that hindered the board during the crisis
- Challenging board and staff to address what’s been left unsaid and unaddressed
What are the Golden Rules in Crisis Management?
1. The need for speed: Crises escalate at lightning speed, often driven by social media.
2. Brands must be authentic in good times and bad: During a crisis it is crucial to reflect and embrace the brand’s core values and voice.
3. Understand the new role of ‘old’ media: People no longer care about ‘facts’ so much as whether news supports their own beliefs.
4. More collaboration between communications & legal: The legal implications of the growing use of digital platforms are yet to be fleshed out – communicators must be careful.
5. Employees are one of your most important audiences:Treat employees as a priority and they could become your messengers and advocates.
6. Empower the crisis team with digital tools & resources: Social media is a two-way process during the crisis – and your plans & resources must be accessible via a digital platform such as In Case of Crisis.
7. Data & Analytics can prevent a crisis – and guide the response: 36m negative brand posts a day – you need to know which ones are important.
8. Brands must anticipate social, cultural and political issues: Greater expectations that brands must ‘stand for something’ – yet we live in an age in which issues polarize along political lines
9. The soundbite is even more important: With the short attention span of the public and media, it has never been more important to capture your story concisely and in a compelling way.
10. Have an up-to-date crisis plan: For all the reasons listed above in rules 1 through 9!
What is the First Rule in a Crisis Situation?
Always plan for the worst case – for more bad news.
You see – in crisis management, experience suggests the crisis WILL get worse. A great crisis team immediately splits, with some addressing the crisis, others immediately scenario planning what could go wrong next and how to respond should that occur.
By anticipating escalation of the problem, you are ready to tackle it – quickly, efficiently, calmly – minimizing damage. And – having those worst case scenario plans in place gives you the confidence to get on with the immediate priorities with optimism and clarity.
Here’s the point. Think about your worlds.
In business, you’re about the have a tough conversation with a client on pricing and fear being fired; to give strong feedback to a leader who is out of line, and fear a resignation; to promote one individual ahead of another, with the latter key to a major client and might quit in a huff; to challenge a superior on a decision, and fear her reaction; to remove someone from a team and fear a ‘revolt’ from his team buddies.
And in life, about to challenge a boyfriend on his behavior; to tell a friend a home truth they won’t like and might resent deeply; you’re short of money and are approaching the bank for a loan; you’re seriously unwell and are awaiting critical test results…
Whenever you are about to embark on an action or path where you fear a significant repercussion, remember the first rule of crisis management:
Plan for the worst case. Here’s what to do.
1. Sit quietly with the potential worst case scenarios. Okay – the client fired us; I got fired; that leader has quit and left the building immediately; as feared, three on a team resigned in protest; my boyfriend dumped me; I have cancer and have a fight ahead. Whatever it is, think clearly about the probable worst case that could happen.
2. And quietly plan exactly what you would do if that was the case. Write down all the options.
3. Develop an action plan. Be very specific about what you would do, step by step, to handle that worst case should it actually happen.
4. Review the plan. Put it in your drawer.
5. Sigh deeply. Lift your shoulders. Fill your very being with confidence and optimism. And go forth and tackle the situation head on.
What does a Crisis Management Plan Look Like?
A crisis management plan (CMP) describes how your business will react to a crisis, including who will be involved and what they will do. The plan strives to minimize harm and restore operations as soon as possible.
Crises come in many forms, but generally they threaten your organization’s operations, reputation, finances, or strategic objectives. Some crises jeopardize lives, health, and safety. The crisis management plan is a key piece of crisis management.
Because emergencies are unpredictable — and crises rarely unfold exactly as you’ve rehearsed — your crisis management plan must be flexible and practical. Therefore, make sure that your plan can adapt to changing circumstances and that you can realistically execute it under pressure.
You should cover the following 10 components in your plan:
Risk Analysis: Outline the scenarios you think your organization could face. Having a more specific sense of these potential occurrences will guide your planning. You do not need to include every conceivable risk, but cover a broad range, such as a natural disaster, a cyberattack, a loss of utilities, a technology failure, the death of a CEO, a shooter in the workplace, a financial crisis, an operational accident, and a product failure.
Activation Protocol: Be sure to include triggers for the crisis management plan, as the natural first response to an emergency is often paralysis. Using levels of urgency as your criterion, define the circumstances that activate a particular crisis response.
In addition, explain how to escalate that response, in the event that a crisis turns out to be more serious than it first appeared. Based on the type or location of the incident, the protocol should also direct your staff on how to respond. And, the protocol should establish some type of communication that signals the end of a crisis.
Chain of Command: Include a crisis management-related organization chart in your plan, so it’s clear who has final authority and who reports to whom. Making a well-defined org chart supports coordination and consistency, which decentralized organizations sometimes struggle to achieve.
Depending on the seriousness of the event, your plan may call for additional layers of command. For example, an emergency at one site may activate the response team and leader at that particular site, but a company-wide crisis may require a headquarters crisis team that has regional teams operating underneath it.
Command Center Plan: Determine what will serve as the base of operations for the team during a crisis. In addition, indicate what supplies and utilities the team will require. In the event that the first command center is unavailable, you will also need to designate a backup command center. Please see below for complete details on setting up a command center.
Response Action Plans: Perform detailed planning around how you will respond to various scenarios. This planning includes assigning responsibility for each task. Think of these response actions as modular elements that you should employ as the situation requires. Conceptualizing crises in this way makes your crisis management plan adaptable.
“The best plans use an all-hazard approach, meaning you don’t write plans with a specific crisis in mind, but rather with all potential hazards in mind. Using this method ensures that you’ll have a consistent response and a team that’s always ready, regardless of the nature of the incident,” recommends Regina Phelps, Founder of crisis management consulting firm Emergency Management & Safety Solutions.
Internal Communication Plan: Create systems and backup methods for members of the crisis management team to communicate with each other. Collect contact information for all team members as well as anyone they might need to call upon, including outside consultants and subject matter experts.
You must also establish ways to disseminate urgent information to all employees, such as using a notification provider to send texts and automated calls or implementing a method for your employees to check in and report their safety and whereabouts. Determine how you will share sensitive news internally, such as a threat to the company’s viability or a loss of life. In addition, don’t forget to establish a schedule and mechanism for updates.
External Communication Plan: Define plans for communicating with the public and key external stakeholders. Appoint a spokesperson. Write detailed instructions, including whom you will notify (e.g., media outlets in a particular geographic area). Also, draft holding statements, the details of which you can fill in later, once you have the relevant information.
Prioritize your strategic communication objectives and outline talking points. Make sure your plans align with other communication efforts. Be ready to create a special website or telephone line to answer consumer or community questions.
Resources: Think about everything the crisis management team might need, from hardhats to credit cards and a standby public relations advisor, and line these things up. Information resources will be especially important in a time of crisis. These resources include many kinds of stakeholder agreements, including union contracts, maps of facilities, timelines, flowcharts of key processes and procedures, supplier contracts, benefits information, and more.
Training: Being able to execute your crisis management plan quickly is paramount, and holding drills and exercises with the crisis management team is crucial to that goal. Rehearsals or even tabletop drills can reveal flaws in the plan, and practice will help the crisis team become comfortable with their individual roles and work together. Make sure to stay current by doing regular training.
In addition, provide training to other staff members based on their particular jobs, such as showing a warehouse manager how to use a fire extinguisher, explaining to a production associate how to stop an assembly line, or teaching an executive assistant how to respond to a media phone call.
Review: Create a structured review process in order to schedule regular follow-up check-ins regarding your plan. As your business or the risk environment changes, you will need to update your crisis management plan. After an actual crisis, the team should analyze what went well and what did not. Identify important lessons, and implement any necessary changes.
What is the Last Step a Company Should Take When Responding to a Crisis?
Effective post-crisis communications can play a role in how quickly and how successfully your company moves beyond a crisis to reflect a new goal or vision. Once you’re able to address the initial challenges presented by a crisis, organizations need to refocus and rebuild.
But the next steps leave many company executives scratching their heads or feeling overwhelmed. There numerous types of crises that range in severity and require different approaches. A crisis might include a growing negative online sentiment, product recall, data breach, employee misconduct or otherwise. Whatever the crisis is, your company needs to respond — and take steps forward — with professionalism and confidence.
For some decision-makers, the easiest and instinctive option might be to ignore the problem and wait for it to pass. But a crisis can have lasting repercussions and this approach can lead to more problems down the road; after a crisis, people will still judge how you respond. Instead of dismissing the crisis — or pretending it never happened — be proactive, acknowledge the situation and adapt messaging as needed. Consider the following approach:
Assess the Post-Crisis Situation
Take a step back and assess the post-crisis situation. Was your communications team getting accurate (and updated) information to share with the public? Were key spokespeople calm and collected under pressure? Was all messaging aligned with a singular and coordinated strategy to move forward? Were the right communications disseminated in a timely manner to stakeholders and the public?
A pulse-check can reveal any cracks in your post-crisis foundation so you can quickly respond to future events as necessary, such as organizing spokesperson or company-wide media trainings.
Craft a Sturdy Messaging Framework
Long after a crisis breaks, people will continue to have questions, especially since a quick Google search can reveal past discretions. Your company needs to build an appropriate messaging framework that includes detailed talking points to guide further marketing, sales and PR efforts.
This framework should highlight new company goals and/or corrective actions to rebuild trust and move forward. Whether your communications are delivered over the phone, e-mail, social media, in an RFP or any other marketing communications, avoid any confusion by ensuring your messaging is consistent.
Implement Learnings to Hone Response and Prevent Future Crisis
The last step in your post-crisis strategy should be reviewing any lessons learned during or after a crisis occurs. The communications team should sit down with executives to establish key takeaways. Your messaging framework should be flexible enough to adjust according to these takeaways, and include specific roles and responsibilities of different employees.
What important lessons were learned during this process, and how do they affect existing protocols? How can these protocols be carried out more efficiently in future crisis situations? Use this reflection period to improve your crisis communication strategy and establish benchmarks — such as response time, media and consumer sentiment and stakeholder perception — to measure progress as your company moves forward.
A crisis is an opportunity to have an honest look at what communication strategies are working, which ones aren’t and how to best move forward. Every company should have an established crisis communication strategy that covers all bases prior to, during and well after a crisis.
What Makes a Good Leader During a Crisis?
When uncertainty and ambiguity is high, people look to their leaders for answers. Here are seven strategies effective leaders use in these circumstances:
1. Give a Clear Direction
In times of crisis, leaders owe their people a clear sense of direction, even when visibility is poor. Their focus can be on the short term, which, along with regular updates, gives them the flexibility to respond to constant and rapid change.
2. Focus on People
Leaders need to take the human factor into account more than they have done before. They must lead people, as people. Because their employees are worried and uncertain, leaders need to proactively offer support, encouragement and engagement.
3. Find a Coach
Leaders need to discover their own humanity and bring it to the workplace with them — for many leaders, for the first time. They must find in themselves those “soft areas” that enable connection with their team members beyond the crisis. This magnitude of change is almost impossible to achieve without help or guidance, which is where coaching can help.
4. Be Transparent
In times of crisis, leaders can inspire trust by providing transparent and frequent information about what they know and what they do not know. Employees are not children from whom leaders must hide the grim reality. They are adults. With the right information, provided at the right time, they will develop the trust that is missing in the world right now.
Read Also: Top 10 Best Jobs for 2023-2025
Leaders can also inspire hope in such times, but it should be open-ended hope, without a deadline. No one knows how long the pandemic will continue, so it would be a mistake to offer hope with a timeline (“it will be over by the summer”). If that timeline were wrong, it could hurt morale and weaken psychological resilience.
5. Develop Self-leadership
Leaders need to set an example by leading themselves beyond the boundaries of their own concerns and uncertainties. In a time of crisis, without self-leadership, it is challenging and almost unethical to lead others.
Self-leadership in unknown stormy waters is a process that starts with leaders’ choosing to stand up for their principles or values. They go beyond their own limitations and difficulties to express those principles and values, and they set for themselves a clear direction and vision. Only then they can offer that direction to the people they lead.
6. Care for Their Team
Leaders need to help their team members overcome their fears so they can again be successful employees. They need to legitimize people’s concerns and not hold them against them. Great leaders like Churchill, Ghandi and Mandela are examples of this leadership trait.
7. Learn to Be a Real Leader
Real leaders lead people from where they are to where they know they can be. With the right leaders, employees grow and develop, reaching new heights of achievement. Not everyone who is promoted to a management position is a real leader. Real leaders learn and develop continuously and see the potential greatness in themselves and others.
As structures crumble and businesses are disrupted, we need this type of leader more than ever. They will navigate us through change and uncertainty.